Now in its fourth iteration, it is time once more for some awards season fun. As I continue to traverse the world and experience the countless variations and regional nuances within the hospitality industry, my hope is you will find some learnings from these honors.
This year represented one of my most intensive travel years with 130 room-nights away from home. I also used the past twelve month stretch to thoroughly experience the sharing economy with a week’s accommodations in Italy booked through Onefinestay, an Accor-owned subsidiary. Even with this decrease in actual properties visited, there were ample award winners to choose from.
Please again note that the following hotels are not presented for backscratching purposes; they offer exemplary lessons for you all which can be applied to your own little slice of hospitality. For one other short note, with few resorts visited this past year (alas, I have to work!), this category will be revisted for next year’s installment.
Best Concierge: The Four Seasons Lisbon concierge welcomed us like a long-lost friend. Not having made any arrangements prior to arrival, the team seemed to anticipate our every requirement. As an example, we hired a driver for a guided tour and, surprisingly, a gourmet picnic hamper was packed in the trunk, complete with china, cutlery, linens and a local sparkler.
Best F&B Relaunch: Is the typical hotel restaurant dead, or just napping? Today’s diners want variety and approachable cuisine, eschewing all formalities. One very trendy approach is that of a food hall where a number of small-counter-kitchens each serve a specialty, surrounded by retail takeout options. At the Fairmont Montreal Queen Elizabeth, the latest venue – Marche Artisans – presents a perfect example of how to bring food to both hotel guests as well as the local community. Situated adjacent to their Rosélys Bistronomie fine-dining outlet allows for creative expansion of space for their well-subscribed Sunday brunch.
Best Housekeeping: We all appreciate the Swiss for their consummate drive for perfection. When it comes to housekeeping, the quaint Hotel Dante Lugano exceeded every parameter of cleanliness. The entire room looked as if it had never been used before, even though it is in the well within of the historic city center. The bathroom was so flawlessly white that the yellow rubber duck (a takeaway gift) literally shone. Even the turndown amenity was orderly. No envelope for gratuity here. When I asked the GM about his team, he confided that they were well-paid and highly respected for their contribution to the property’s success.
Best Large Property Addition: How do you make the best even better? How do you differentiate a seemingly generic element of your guest offering? The ARIA Resort & Casino added a Concierge Lounge as a mezzanine club tucked away from the hubbub of the casino floor with great buffet food offerings. Presented as an add-on to all guests, the lounge is still centrally located and open through most of the day. The facility is an example of how hotels learn from other industries; in this case, the airport business lounge.
Best Renovation: Capping a multi-year property renovation, the Boston Harbor Hotel converted an area that was essentially pre-function space into their new Presidential Suite. With a spectacular harbor view, custom furnishings, massive chandeliers, public spaces and private chambers, the suite combines a feeling for the city with understated modern elegance. Importantly, the facility will add good revenue into a very competitive marketplace.
Best Convention Hotel: Is it a myth that everything in Texas is bigger? At the Fairmont Austin, the convention space is clear proof. This property’s meeting space is, well, enormous, particularly considering the hotel is adjacent to the convention center with a futuristic pedestrian bridge directly linking the two. But it’s not just the size of the ballrooms and ancillary space that makes this my selection as convention king. This property understands how to make meetings perform with a well-honed team.
Property of the Year: This pinnacle award goes to the QT Hotel in Sydney, Australia. Built from a converted movie theatre, everything about this property puts into question the definition of what defines a hotel. Any supposed lifestyle-property should take note. Apart from slick décor, the appropriately costumed staff resemble actors who enjoy their craft. Every aspect of the facility is unique and memorable, with the main restaurant, Gowings, offering an exceptional fluid space that seamlessly transforms from quiet breakfast abode to a buzzy downtown happy hour lounge. It all works famously. So good in fact that I’d recommend hoteliers take a trip down under because if all hotels were this good, there would be nothing to fear from the sharing economy!